Ad Server Basic Performance Metrics – Clicks Vs Conversions


Clicks and Click-through Rate (CTR)

Clicks are a recorded increment in the ad server, counting a user clicking on an ad. As a component of the click redirect, the ad server is pinged and the master database of the ad server appends a row stating that a particular cookieID clicked on an ad at a particular time from a particular Publisher site.

For many years, the click was the only way a user could interact with an ad and show some intent to purchase. On the early web, Advertisers and Publishers were obsessed with the CPC model. With other methods of counting now available such as rich media interaction or view based conversions, the click has lost a lot of value in the display space. Having said this, a click is some indicator of interest and many Advertisers try to separate out their audiences by those that show some interest from those that don’t.

Clicks remain integral to digital advertising owing to the support of them by the performance channels (Affiliate and Paid Search). Clickthrough-rate composes of the number of impressions divided by the number of clicks to determine how many viewers successfully became clickers. Usually this can be expected to be a very low number, certainly much lower than 1% of the total impressions. On a big enough scale this is still a considerable number of interested users, but it is difficult to determine what caused the click itself. Sometimes the creative may have been the most enticing part of the click action (creative optimization) and sometimes it may just been down to the correctly targeting audience (media optimization). Experimentation can help determine what is driving the user to click.

Conversions  & Conversion rate

Just as with clicks, conversions are presented in aggregated reporting as a measure of campaign success, particularly where the user is driven to make a purchase online. Conversions are really; impressions for which a conversion was reported. Conversion reporting will typically displayed so that the total number of conversions is attributed to each ad server entity (channel, Publisher, site, package, placement, ad, creative and version). Conversions to a particular conversion tag will be labelled in reporting along with a conversion rate (conversions divided by impressions) to calculate how many of the users that were exposed to the ad, went through to convert.

Conversions can be broken out into post-impression and post-click conversion events, allowing the Advertiser to dismiss conversions based on impression only exposure to the user. Furthermore it is important when pulling basic aggregated reports (such as performance reports) to remember that conversions are calculated based on the settings shown on the conversion tag in the campaign management interface of the ad server. Both attribution settings and conversion windows will have an impact on the total number of conversions displayed in the conversions column.

With a good grasp of the basic reports, a trafficker can go into the ad server reporting interface and pull the report directly or setup a schedule so that it delivers to the trafficker’s inbox frequently. Third party ad servers design these basic aggregated reports in the interest of time saving so that the trafficker does not have to assemble a report from scratch by collecting up and filtering by a wide range of metrics and hierarchy entities that may not fit together. An example would be trying to report a channel specific metric across a campaign running in a channel that does not support the same metric.

Leaving behind the campaign setup and having the Publisher set the ad tags live means that the work of the trafficker now moves to monitoring and reporting on the progress of the campaign. The first stage in this process of involves checking that the campaign has actually kicked off (i.e. are the ads delivering, clicking through and are the users converting). It is recommended therefore for the trafficker to check basic aggregated reporting within twenty four hours of the campaign going live. The initial data available in delivery reports would just be an indicator that things kick off well. The trafficker would then move onto looking at verification reports before taking a deeper dive into the available data via more advanced aggregated reports, fully customized reports or channel specific reports.

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